REVIEW 'Bird Songs' Boston Globe

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Monday January 10, 2011

From the Boston Globe

Joe Lovano / Us Five, ‘Bird Songs’
By Steve Greenlee

Saxophonist Joe Lovano has tried on a lot of bands and formats since joining the Blue Note label 20 years ago ‘” duos, trios, quartets, big bands, near-classical ensembles. But his current quintet, Us Five, may be his finest. The band ‘” which features pianist James Weidman, bassist Esperanza Spalding, and drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela ‘” put out the spectacular ‘Folk Art’‘ in 2009, and now they serve up ‘Bird Songs,’‘ a collection inspired by the work of Charlie Parker. But this is no mere tribute album. Parker’s compositions are not played as he intended (speedily, with torrents of notes); Lovano upends them, infusing them with modern sensibilities. Mostly they are slowed down, which gives the musicians room to roam beneath the chords and rhythms. ‘Blues Collage,’‘ is a jazz mash-up: Lovano, Weidman, and Spalding each play a different Parker tune at the same time, intertwining the melodies into a new song altogether. Lovano says the idea for this project began when Us Five performed in Barbados and broke out a new arrangement of Parker’s ‘Barbados,’‘ one with a Caribbean vibe. The tune is full of enthusiasm, and its ethos ‘” finding something new to say through something familiar ‘” encapsulates why Lovano is now jazz royalty.

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